Sunday, March 28, 2010


The Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, is a must see of the many plantation tours for its real tools, furnishings, records and heirlooms of a working Creole Plantation.
Creole is a culture not a race.  Creole people are a mixture of French, West African, Indian, Spanish and German cultures influences. French speaking, they were business like and not interested in showing off their wealth as the new "Americans". And, like the Spanish, women could inherit, own property, and handle business affairs. Thus, Elizabeth Duparc's father chose her over her two brothers to be his successor and run the family enterprise which she did  for 47 years. She chose her  Great Granddaughter, Laura, to be her successor when her own daughter quit the business. The 1/2 mile wide by 7 mile deep sugar plantation was one of the largest and most successful  in Louisiana. Laura now sits on a working farm of 1,200 acres.

 The unique structure, built off the ground on a subsurface pyramid,  was designed to sustain hurricanes and floods. The entrance above has no main door. Six sets of french doors opened to allow breezes into the family quarters/offices. The women did business in their bedrooms as a compliment of trust, and a business man had to learn which door belonged to the President, Elizabeth, who was a ruthless leader. This house was a business establishment, used during harvest. The family repaired to fancier quarters in New Orleans for the "carnival" season. The Creoles were practical and their house was functional.

Here is a life sized effigy of Elizabeth standing in front of precious refrigerator jars. They arrived from Europe filled with olive oil. When empty, they were buried in the soil up to their neck. The cold, damp soil kept cold the butter, milk and other perishables the family used. The slave cooks made 200 breakfasts and lunches each day, thus many of these jars of different sizes were used.  Slaves fixed their own dinners and were allowed their own gardens and livestock.

The men of this family were not chosen leaders for good reason. Besides no business sense, two of them were mean with fiery tempers and committed murder. The sword above belonged to one of Elizabeth's brothers which he used to kill a man. He was sent to France and after five years, the authorities were bought off and he returned. His daughter had acne and was sent to France for a cure, which killed her. He abandoned his wife and she enclosed herself in this room and never left, a self punishment for her daughter's death. She died in this room after 20 years.  Laura, who resisted taking over the family business, but did for ten years, wrote memoirs for her own children because her great grandmother branded a slave with her initials, and she wanted her children to know the truth about life on a Creole Plantation. Her memoirs told a fascinating saga of  their lives.

 Equally fascinating is the slave document above with cryptic comments on the working habits and value of each one listed for sale in current U.S. dollars. Women and skilled men were the most worthy slaves. (To read it, click on it to enlarge it.)

Slave quarter's porch with bench and carved wooden tub, above. By law a slave house had to be 16 X 16 feet. These were built like duplexes. Two 16 foot units with one communal wall saved money. These slave houses were expanded and rented up until 1977 to workers.

Simply built with little furnishings, the slaves spent most of their time out of doors. Descendants of slaves worked the plantation until entrance in the armed services gave many of the men a new trade. Pictures of former workers hang on the wall of this preserved historic building.

This fascinating tour provided a lot of information about the strong structure of the building, its post and beam and brick with plaster inside. Its strength, without nails in great detail. Also, several documents of slave law provided by King Louis for his colonies treatment of slaves of which I took readable photos. All are visible in an album below:

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